Bollywood is now the only film culture in the world to resist Hollywood, and if Heart’s Desire (aka Dil Chahta Hai) is anything to go by, it will resist it for some time yet. This was 2001’s biggest Bollywood film, and its easy mix of appealing characters and lightweight melodrama will appeal to anyone with any sense of fun.
Watching it I was reminded of the Hollywood of the 1940s, where movies simply aimed to please. The major difference is that it’s in Hindi, and the music is a whole lot funkier.
It’s a story about three friends with different views on love. Akash says there is no such thing, and never keeps a girlfriend longer than two weeks. Sameer falls in love deeply, but frequently. Sid keeps his feelings inside, but so far that no-one can guess who he is loving, least of all the object of his desire. At the film’s start, the three friends are estranged; through flashbacks we learn about the strong bond between them, and the event that tore them apart. All via some wacky romantic situations and plenty of catchy songs!
Within this structure director Farhan Akhtar spins an enjoyable tale that trips buoyantly along for three hours plus. I usually run a mile from long films, but this is so pleasantly paced that I barely noticed the time passing. It’s all eye and ear candy, and not hard to see why it was such a hit in India -these boys want for nothing, living in fabulous apartments and driving off to Goa in their Merc. And of course we have those famous tunes and dance routines -banish that preconception you have of sitars twanging away, the music for 2001 Bollywood is up-to-the-minute and mighty danceable. It’s a crime to watch these things sitting down! Standout routines include the boys’ impromptu disco graduation party, and a hilarious sequence where Sameer takes his date to the movies and sees himself crooning away on screen.
Of especial note to Australian audiences is the fact that part of the story is filmed in Sydney, hence its inclusion at SAPFF. The film is enjoyable enough as it is, but watching Akash and Shalini trade musical barbs about the existence of love while strolling through Hyde Park would put a smile on anyone’s face!